Fifteen years ago, Lauren Jenai and Greg Glassman introduced a new sport to the world. They called it CrossFit, which has since then revolutionized the way that many professional or aspiring (and even non-athletes), think of fitness. CrossFit is a sport that aims to improve an athlete’s general physical preparedness, and this can be achieved through the development of ten skills: cardiovascular, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and Accuracy. The sport incorporates elements from other sports and training regimes such as Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, plyometrics, calisthenics, and many others, such as swimming running, etcetera.
In 2005, there were 13 CrossFit -affiliated gyms in the U.S.. There are now just over 10,000 CrossFit affiliates around the world. Over 5,000 of those affiliates are in the U.S., with others in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Australia. Canada itself has just over 500 affiliates, most of which are on the eastern side of the country. CrossFit can be a financially inaccessible to some as rates are upward of $100 per month. But, it isn’t necessary to train at a CrossFit affiliate to adapt CrossFit’s methods of training, and this is one of the reasons that the sport has grown so rapidly.
In an email to The Daily, McGill Kinesiology student and CrossFitter Patrick Vellner said, “CrossFit does a phenomenal job of making itself very accessible to all types of people. What allows CrossFit to be so accessible is that one of its major staples is that the training is universally scalable and adaptable to all skill levels. This basically means that all of the weights can always be adjusted, and movements modified to allow any individual to take part, and adjust the intensity of training to be appropriate to them. Because of this, physical disabilities generally do not limit individuals in their potential for participation. Where there is a will, there is a way.”
CrossFit holds an event every year called The Open, where athletes worldwide do a series of five workouts. They can do this either at a local CrossFit affiliate, where they will be judged in person, or they could film their performance and submit it to be judged that way. There are various categories, including ones based on gender (men and women), and on age (‘Teenagers’ between the ages 14 and 17, ‘Open,’ where anyone can compete and ‘Masters’ for those older than the age of 40). Furthermore, instead of participating as individuals, athletes can perform as a team consisting of at least three men and three women, and do all of their workouts together.
For the first year ever, the Open is now separated into competitive and non-competitive divisions. Those who wish to compete in the CrossFit Games would do the Open in the competitive division, and those who simply want to be more involved with the sport would participate in the non-competitive division. Those who place highest in the competitive division of the Open go to the CrossFit Regionals. A certain amount of athletes who place highest at the Regionals (which vary year to year) will then be able to move onto the CrossFit Games that are held every summer.
Aside from the CrossFit Games themselves, there are various other competitions hosted by affiliates at their own gyms. This is another way in which CrossFit is inclusive: there can still be a competitive aspect to the sport for those who aren’t quite ready to compete at the Games. There are even competitions for those who are disabled. Kevin Ogar, a very respected CrossFit athlete has excelled at the sport, while doing his workouts in a wheelchair. Ogar is a member of WheelWod, a group of athletes whose mission is to make all forms of fitness adaptable and accessible for everyone. They also host seminars, done by a system of trial-and-error, for other disabled athletes.
Having said that, I should point out that CrossFit isn’t only about competition; it is also about preparing people for any physical contingency, which is yet another reason the sport has grown so quickly among people. The sport doesn’t set unrealistic standards like many other sports do, meaning people can feel comfortable knowing they aren’t the top athletes in the world.
Vellner said, “I think that it is important to understand that CrossFit is not defined by its big competitions like the CrossFit Games. These are only a small part of CrossFit, a celebration of its elite athletes, but anyone can enjoy it without competing at a high level. The community, camaraderie, and ideals surrounding CrossFit are what really make it amazing. There is universal acceptance and everyone is always trying to help each other out. The main goal is to live a healthier life and the most important competition at the gym is against yourself.”
Vellner has been doing CrossFit since 2013, but even before CrossFit, he said he had a great athletic background in gymnastics that was sure to help him excel. Remembering his first year doing CrossFit and participating in the Open, he said he “had some reasonable success for a beginner, but it was a big reality check as to what it takes to compete at the next level.” The following year, he continued to train on his own, and again decided to compete in the Open. He qualified for Regionals, decided to compete yet again, and finished in fifth place – only two spots away from making it to the CrossFit Games. After his successful campaign at the Canada East Regionals, a few athletes from CrossFit Plateau approached him, and asked him to begin training at their gym. He has been training there since the fall of 2014. He says that he loves the sport, and is shooting for the 2016 CrossFit Games.
Training in accordance with the methods of CrossFit, an average person could potentially become a strong and well-rounded athlete, with the foundation of general physical preparedness. When done safely as a sport, CrossFit provides an interesting and real challenge with plenty of potential for personal growth and achievement, which is why it has grown so rapidly across the globe, and will continue to do so. CrossFit has revolutionized the way people think of fitness, and that in itself proves why CrossFit is perfect for everyone.